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Marine Conservation Key Challenge Of This Century

Green Party co-leader Rod Donald says preserving the marine environment is the biggest conservation challenge facing New Zealand in the 21st Century.

Speaking at the AGM of the Akaroa Harbour Marine Protection Society as part of Sea Week yesterday (Saturday) Mr Donald said the conservation focus of the last 30 years had been on saving forests, with some degree of success, but more effort and attention must now be turned to the sea.

"As the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment said in his recent report, our knowledge of the marine environment is comparable to our knowledge of the forests at the turn of the 20th Century.

"I would add that our current treatment of the marine environment is also comparable to how we treated our forests over the last 100 years," he said.

Mr Donald said the sustainability of the marine world remained in grave peril, with many marine fish and birds threatened with extinction as a result of over-fishing, pollution and some fishing practices. "Commercial operations are doing everything in their power to lock up the ocean 'commons' for private profit.

"With the change of government there is a real opportunity to turn the tide," he said. "The Green Party is adamant that fisheries research remains in public control and believe a comprehensive ocean strategy must be developed to address the many areas of pressing concern.

"The Greens primarily wish to see the reduction of fishing-related deaths of sea mammals and birds and the rapid introduction of more marine reserves and taiapure (local management systems)," he said.

Mr Donald told the Akaroa Harbour Marine Protection Society that he would continue to promote their application for a marine reserve in Akaroa Harbour, which has been on the Conservation Minister's desk for several years.

"I am aware that local Maori have now also lodged an application for a taiapure over the whole harbour. I believe that with goodwill it should be possible to have both the marine reserve and the taiapure, which would meet the needs of all parties.

"As the Dan Rogers marine reserve proposal covers only 10 per cent of Akaroa Harbour, it is entirely in line with Labour's election commitment to protect 10 per cent of our coast line with marine reserves," he said.

"Marine reserves provide intrinsic benefits for marine species as well as providing breeding grounds and creating valuable local tourism opportunities."

At the end of last year there were only 16 marine reserves in New Zealand which, excluding the Kermadecs, covered only 0.1 per cent of New Zealand's territorial seas.

ends

Rod Donald MP: 025 507 183, 03 366 3292 (hm)


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